Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
A county in the southwestern part of the state, ninety miles southeast of Kansas City, bounded on the north by Henry County, on the east by Benton and Hickory Counties, and on the west by Bates and Vernon Counties. Its southern line is irregular, and touches the counties of Cedar, Polk and Hickory ... The first white man of whom there is record was Jacob Coonce, hunter who came in 1827. In 1831 he built a cabin, the first in the region, near the Sac River, about 3 miles northeast of the present site of Roscoe. This he soon abandoned to make his home on Brush Creek, in the southern part of what is now St. Clair County ...
St. Clair County was named for General Arthur St. Clair, of Revolutionary War fame. Its boundaries were defined by act of the General Assembly, January 16, 1833. February 11, 1835, it was attached to Rives (now Henry County) for civil and military purposes, and May 5, 1835, it was designated as St. Clair Township in that county. November 4, following, it was divided into two townships, named Weaubleau and Monegaw, and at an election held December 10, James Gardner and Jesse Applegate were chosen justices of the peace for those townships respectively. The county of St. Clair was organized by act of the General Assembly January 29, 1841, and then included portions of the present counties of Benton, Hickory and Cedar. The present boundaries were established in 1845. Joseph Montgomery, Calvin Waldo and Thomas F. Wright were named commissioners to hold an election for location of a county seat. Osceola was chosen after a bitter contest, in which Jesse Applegate endeavored to secure the location at Wyatt's Grove, about one mile east of the present village of Roscoe. The majority in The Wyatt Grove party sought to overturn the election through court process, but their motion was overruled by Judge Foster P. Wright (See "Osceola.") In 1880 an attempt was made to remove the county seat to Appleton City, but it was defeated at the polls. Under the organic act, the first county court sat at the house of William Gash ... The next session was held at the same place and two succeeding sessions were held at Wyatt's Grove. In November 1841, the seat was established at Osceola. (--Encyclopedia of the State of Missouri, Conard, 1901, Vol. 5, pp. 424-425-426.)
By act of the Legislature, January 29, 1841, St. Clair County was organized as follows:
"All that territory within the following described limits, viz: Beginning at the southeast corner of Township 37, in Range 24;; thence north on range line dividing ranges 23 and 24; thence west on the township line dividing Townships 39 and 40; thence south on range line dividing Ranges 28 and 29, to the township line dividing Townships 34 and 35; thence east on same township line to the range line dividing Ranges 24 and 25; thence north on said range line to the township line dividing Townships 36 and 37; thence east to the place of beginning, is hereby declared a separate and distinct county, to be called and known by the name of the County of St. Clair." ...
Approved January 29, 1841.
The act which made St. Clair a part of and under the jurisdiction of Rives County (now Henry), which might as well be given here, was passed by the General Assembly, February 11, 1835. Below is a copy of the act.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri:
All that portion of territory lying south or Rives County, west of Benton, now known by the name of St. Clair County, shall be attached to the County of Rives, for all civil and military purposes, until otherwise provided by law.
Just six years and four days after "the otherwise provided by law" took place, as the above "organization act" shows, the original boundary did not seem to be satisfactory, which was given in the organization act, and on March 28, 1845, at the general session of the Legislature, the line was changed so as to present the boundary line of the county; which act of the General Assembly was promptly passed, and was approved at the above date. This new boundary of the county was defined in words following:
Boundary of St. Clair
St. Clair, beginning at the northwest corner of Township 39 and Range 28; thence south with the range line to the southwest corner of Section 7, Township 36 and Range 28; thence east to the southeast corner of Section 8, Township 36 in Range 26; thence south to the line dividing Townships 35 and 36; thence north to the township line dividing Townships 23 and 24; thence north to the township line dividing Townships 39 and 40; thence west to the place of beginning.
Approved March 28, 1845. (--State of Missouri, History of St. Clair County, pp. 854-855.)
County Seat Fight
Two factions were involved in the selection for the site of the county seat, led respectively by the Bell (also spelled Beal) and Applegate families ... The election to decide the question of the location of the county seat was made by the order of the county court at its May term to take place in August, 1841 ... The election came off and resulted in a majority of seven for Osceola, not seventeen. The Applegate party wanted it to be located on the farm on Section 16 ... At that time the 40 acre lot was within -- what they claimed -- about one-half mile from the geographical center of the county.
The Wyatt Grove faction through the person of Nathaniel Bell, brought in a legal document, attacking the selection of Osceola. The Circuit Court was in session, the same August 1841, Judge Foster P. Wright on the bench and the following document was submitted to the court:
"Upon the motion of Nathaniel Bell, the relator in an information in the nature of a 'quo warranto,' against Joseph Montgomery, Calvin Waldo, and Thomas F. Wright commissioners for the location of a county seat for St. Clair Co., for leave to file the same, which motion was overruled."
This cleared the way for the eventual selection of Osceola for the site of the county seat. (--History of St. Clair County, pp. 858, 859, 860, which also includes the deed from Phillip Crow and wife to the County Seat of St. Clair.)
Among all the trials of the pioneers, "going to mill" was the equal of any, if not the greatest. Going from forty to sixty miles, a bag of corn across the horse's back, and compelled to walk and lead it was something they dreaded, and which they contrived several ways to avoid. First was the hole burned in the end of a log, and with the iron wedge used to split logs and rails fastened onto a handle was the pestle and mortar of those days. Then came the hand mill fastened up to a tree, which was a decided improvement. But even that was slow work ... Then came the water mill.
The water mills of St. Clair County are listed in alphabetical sequence in the body of this directory. (--History of St. Clair Co., p. 956.)